Published online: Wednesday, 15 September 2010
This interview is from Endangered Characters of Australia.
H.R.H. Prince Leonard
Prince of Hutt River Province
I’ve got this asymmetrical eye ‘cause at a very early age I learnt that you could learn a lot from looking through a keyhole. Politicians get away with a lot of things they have no right to and unless people get up and stop them, they will continue like children testing their parents. My Principality Hutt River is a sovereign country where the sovereignty is held by a Prince on behalf of the people. He does not have a coronation. Monaco and Lichtenstein are Principalities.
The establishment of our Post Office and stamps, currency notes and coins was a battle of several years and we finally got them recognised. For a while we had to route our stamps internationally through Canada. Finally we had a court case which deemed that our stamps and coins are legal. Early on I was threatened with death and with the army but all is forgiven now.
I don’t pay tax. I’ve had little battles with Taxation. My aim is to have several thousand people live here on the Principality and all we’re waiting on is to resolve excise and customs duties sales tax. We’re entitled by law to have our imports exempt and that’s inevitable. It’s about the only last hurdle left. When that’s lifted, away we go. It’s better to go slow. Our Government’s concerned with the good name of Hutt River. We don’t want people to run in and do their money.
In the early days from 1973 to its peak in 1980 it was sensational. Australians wouldn’t believe that anybody could get away with it and they came to see what sort of bloke could put it over the Commonwealth Government.
All we were after in the beginning was a wheat quota. The West Australian Government at the time were trying to deprive me and people like me of making a living through crippling wheat quotas and putting in acts through Parliament to take our land. That’s when we seceded to create a judicial block to stop them taking our land. The Government had no right to take anyone’s ability to make a living or to take their land without compensation. These rights Australia inherited from the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta. The wheat quota was an offence under the British Bill of Rights. It was a Bill that hadn’t been passed. It was not an Act of Parliament. Personally I think that no one person wanted to push hard and take responsibility for the unlawful actions that they would have to take upon themselves to stop me, and the media had a keen ear to the events the whole time.
Many of the top Constitutional Lawyers are in Europe where boundaries hang but in Australia there’s been no need till now with Aboriginal matters. So Australia hasn’t had many top Constitutional Lawyers but I’ve got them.
When Queen Elizabeth didn’t accept our offer of sovereignty after we seceded we were stuck with it. We weren’t after it. Three months later we were reading letters of recognition from Sir Paul Hasluck, the Governor-General and Lieutenant-General F.P. Bert and suddenly it dawned on us... Suddenly we’d done it! What’ll we do now? We sat down to follow all the correct protocol and serve notices of the appointment of the Government, the naming of the Ministers, adoption of the flag and the name of the Government. One of the main criteria of the legality is the question: Is the Government that’s seeking recognition actually speaking for the people it says it represents?
Part of my title is defender of the faith and protector of the legends... Like those of the Nunda Tribe of this country which I received from the chief lady of the Nunda Tribe, Lucy. I don’t have any land claims because the Nunda people are people of my country and know they can come and live here.
Another big factor in our acceptance is the ability to stand our ground and argue it out and stick to our lawful ways; the ability to stay and be there in time. Are you going to be a lasting country? We’re in our 25th year which is a reasonable time. To celebrate, we’ll do some functions and dinners and invites and speeches. A Queen and a King and an ex-President will be amongst the VIP dignitaries.
A lot of Government Departments, like Telecom and Australia Post, will work with us officially. I’ve got 4 sons and around them we’ve built top legal advisers and QCs and top businesses which I didn’t have at the beginning. These people have come to us offering their services, wanting to be part of it. So Hutt River Province will just get stronger and stronger by every indication.
Get up and pursue honest justice. Don’t just say someone else ought to do it. Quite a lot seem to say, “Well, what can I do?” They voice their dissatisfaction but that’s the extent they’ll go. Politicians like that ‘cause they’ve got no opposition. Various times I’ve been to Canberra and met politicians. I’ve met no animosity and they often lean forward and whisper, “Well, what are you going to do next?” But collectively they have opposed me.
As for our Aborigines... You should have one set of laws for all your people and the Government should be controlled by the same laws as the people. That’s in the British Bill of Rights. And the sacredness of the land belongs to the spirits, not the man. We may use it while we’re on it whether you say it belongs to God or Nature. Natural law is that which is there by nature. Air and sea and land are given to man by Nature. You can make laws for the orderly conduct on land, sea and air but you can’t make laws depriving him of it. Land, sea, air and earth belong to everyone. We’ve created about 5,000 acres Reserve for flora and fauna.
Our titles are not for ego or grandeur but they’re for a practical, legal purpose and if you don’t do it within the correct limits of protocol as is expected then you are quite out of order and could be ridiculed for such. We’ve got 13,000 citizens all told including many politicians, and on Norfolk Island I stay with one of our Dames, Colleen McCulloch.
The Commissioner of Police and Deputy came here and got their Visas. I gave a speech to the law section of La Trobe University in Melbourne. One of the chaps there was an International Constitutional Law Professor, and acted as a constitutional adviser to the Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. He was very interested in Hutt River Province and came out to dinner with me and all the Law Professors and the Chancellor. At the end he asked if he could become a citizen of Hutt River. We duly granted him a citizenship and a Hutt River passport. That really tickled me. If Malcolm Fraser asked his adviser, “What can we do to stymie Prince Leonard?” he’d probably say, “Sorry, I’m one of its citizens.” So that night we pinched Malcolm Fraser’s constitutional adviser. Besides I was very pleased that a person of that status could - after many hours of questioning and evaluating the legalities - choose to become a citizen.
One politician said to another in Canberra’s Parliament when they were having a heated debate, “Ah, why don’t you go and get your own hut!” That was quoted in the West Australian. Norman Gunston flew in here in his own private DC3 for a day’s filming. For the occasion he wore half a dozen medals made out of chocolate. It was a real hot February day and Princess Shirley had to keep putting them in the refrigerator. All day he was forever dropping on his knee and begging for a knighthood or trying to dub himself as a knight. It was pretty hard to keep a straight face for the camera.
I’ve only ever held a Hutt River Province passport and I’ve travelled to dozens of countries all over the world on it. We have 13,000 subjects and a lot of them are businessmen who are travelling the world on it. If the person isn’t a nut or a criminal or using the passport to beat Australia in some way - like staying on after an expired visa - then our committee may approve and grant a passport.
I’ve bestowed about 200 peerages and knighthoods. Our Hutt River College of Heraldry is a member of the International Heritage Society in Switzerland which keeps the records. While ever Hutt River Province exists there will always be some politician coming up and trying to have a go. One time I appeared in court the Magistrate grumbled, “If you’ve seceded, what are you doing in our court?” I replied, “To show respect for your court.” With a wave of his arm he said, “Ah well, on with the case.”
Many places around the world, if you did what I’ve done (secede) then Boom! Boom! you wouldn’t be around to argue the law with them. So it’s a credit to Australia, that.
For 25 years Prince Leonard’s name has brought a wry smile to the faces of millions of disbelieving Australians. For here is a man who has calmly taken over the sovereignty of a part of a nation. He has done it apparently within the very laws of that nation. Then when there appears to be a conflict he will turn up on the steps of Parliament in Canberra for discussions and tell the Government that he is there to deal with any problems that Government may believe exists between them. Although he stands there, apparently quite alone, no Government has ever shown desire to discuss opposition with him. He has instead been taken to friendly Luncheons and dinners. It would appear that each person individually feels a strength or bond of friendliness with Prince Leonard. He has said to the Government, “If you wish to try me in the appropriate court then the charge is section 39 of the West Australian Criminal Code. Let us proceed.” But Prince Leonard has admonished the Government concerned to proceed with caution.
He is a warm, caring, fatherly man surprisingly conservative... all for God, Queen and Country... and fought for Australia oversees during WW2. During the 2 days my family spent with his I found him to be of mint sterling uprightness of character yet he and Princess Shirley and their large family have an earthiness and natural humility. While drawing his caricature I noticed he is unique in having one small eye since birth and was born with a hole in his hand at the intersection of the main lines of the palm.
Prince Leonard has for his own fascination indulged in extensive research into gravity, pure physics of motion, the quantum theory of light and astronomy. He produced an equation for measuring the precise area of a circle. The publication of his paper on Relativity and the Solar System made - according to the Indiana University - the first fundamental contribution in this field since Copernicus. He has had honours bestowed upon him from around the world by many Heads of State and religious leaders.
During Harry Butler’s interview he had this to say: “Prince Leonard is a wonderful bastard. He found genuine legal loopholes in the Constitutional structure and exploited them to the point where the whole massive steamhammer of Government was brought in to try to smash this peanut of Hutt. At the moment he is contained but if Canberra pushes Mabo... West Australia and Tassie could well mount their own secessions and Prince Leonard’s approach would be legitimised openly and thereby totally. To that extent he may prove a sleeping giant.”
At this point in time the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia assuredly knows that Prince Leonard has walked amongst them. Although having a very deep respect for law and justice, he has been heard to say jovially to the Crown Prosecutor, “Well, it’s about time you gave me a win in court.” and “You had better adjourn this case because your legislation is in a hopeless mess.”
Prince Leonard is steeped in an encyclopaedic knowledge of British Common Law and the origins and evolution of Australia’s legal system. He wrote to the Prime Minister and advised him of various ultra vires in the Commonwealth Taxation laws and advised him not to argue in court in this field for he, Prince Leonard, had no desire to hurt the solvency of the Commonwealth but, if he must, to argue in some other field.
Historically, the proven fact is that the Principality of Hutt River Province is fully kosher, watertight and here to stay. It is no threat to us... rather a reminder of our values and of the value of the individual. It proves that in life... one human being can make a difference.
Since the early 1970s, Mick Joffe's passion has been to caricature and record endangered characters of Australia, and the world. As of 2015, the majority of these interviews exist only in manuscript form.